2nd John 1-3

John’s Second Epistle

2 Jno. 1-3


The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever:

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.  –2 Jno. 1-3

Among New Testament writers, John is not known for sequential arguments (like Paul in Romans). He is not known for relating cases of conversion (like Luke in Acts). He is not known for contrasts between the covenants (as in Hebrews). John is known for his directness and simplicity. And, for his interests in stating his purpose in writing (see 1 Jno. 2:14-14 and Jno. 20:30,31). In this second epistle his purpose is to encourage “the elect lady and her children” to know, love and abide in the truth.

It is noteworthy, reading Second John there are words and phrases that stand out: Truth, Walking in Truth, Commanded, Watch yourselves and avoid giving support/endorsing those who do not abide in the doctrine of Christ.

John’s love for his readers compelled him to remind them of their commitment to the truth of Christ, revealed through the apostles.

Since the time John wrote this, nothing has happened that should cause us to take it less seriously today. Christians are people who want to know the truth, love the truth and walk in the truth. Part of that obligation is to avoid, mark and not support those who would lead people away from the truth Christ revealed through His apostles (see Rom. 16:17,18).


You Haven’t Stop Pressing Have You?

Warren E. Berkley

The apostle Paul is highly regarded by Bible students. We admire his conversion to the Lord, his courage in preaching the gospel, his willingness to face hardship, his love for people and passionate love for the Lord. Paul’s example helps us see what it means to be a Christian.

While we might look to him as a fully developed, “all together,” perfect Christian – he would make no such claim. He said . . .

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Not a single reader of this blog has arrived at perfection. None can make the claim to have arrived.

So our challenge is to determine what we can do better. Mediocrity is distasteful to people with good and honest hearts. To fall into a rut and never grow would create shame before God; not to mention judgment. What are you doing now that is right, that you can do better. There is not just one answer that fits all.

The answers will vary from individual to individual. Some may need to be better Bible readers and students. Others may need to take the knowledge they have, and determine to share it with others. Some of us need to get more involved with helping people, encouraging our brothers and sisters in Christ. There are young men who can prepare themselves better for future service. There are wives and mothers and young ladies who can learn how to teach children and become good caregivers.

Five Destroyers

Five Destroyers

1 Pet. 2:1

Warren E. Berkley


What if I told you, “I have discovered five things that will destroy your life!” Would you be interesting in knowing what those things are? I’m telling you, these five things will take you away from God, disable you as a good parent, ruin your marriage, send people running away from you and corrupt your character. Are you going to keep reading?


“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all guile, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,” (1 Pet. 2:1).

Five Destroyers

All Malice

The word “all” is not insignificant. Whatever malice is, I must not have any of it in my heart. Repentance and ongoing  spiritual discipline demand I renounce malice entirely; I must refuse to hang on to any of this.

Malice means desire to injure! You may carelessly or impulsively say or do something that hurts, immediately “taking it back” with an apology (prompted by sincere remorse). Malice is different. It is an evil habit of mind that is not compatible with the mind of Christ at all. It is a desire or purpose to injure. It is intentional, and the intention is to hurt.

It is a destroyer and so each of us need to use the Word of God to look deep inside. Finding any malice, we must get rid of it at once. It is a self-destructive destroyer of marriages, churches, friendships and reputation. Most serious, it takes us away from God. (See also in Titus 3:3-5).

All Guile (deceit)

This means the use of bait, to snare someone in your trap; to lure your victim to his/her defeat. Are you willing to use carnal methods to deceive someone, tricking someone, concealing your true motives to ambush your opponent? That isn’t constructive, destroys you, hurts people and takes you away from God. Use the Word of God to search your hearts for this destroyer and lay it aside before more damage is done.


The Greek word used by Peter and other New Testament writers was taken from the context of drama, describing an actor or actress playing the part of another. Think of pretense, pretending to be someone else, to entertain on the stage, playing to an audience.

A hypocrite is one who pretends to be something that he or she is not. In your heart there is one person. In your public life – there is a different person?

Do you realize that some people live a lie! Their life is a lie. In their public conduct there is the appearance of good character, right intentions, fellowship with God, a member of the church in good standing, etc. But in heart there is not good character; an absence of right intentions; no real association with God in the heart, only in pretentious conduct before men.

Growth cannot be pursued with any serious vigor as long as  there is this inconsistency between heart and life. We must use His Word to identify and remove these attitudes. They are destroyers.


Sometimes you’ll hear someone express some difficulty distinguishing between two things – jealousy and envy. Jealousy indicates being overly possessive of what you believe belongs to you. Jealousy – in course of time and if not handled wisely – develops into contentious rivalry, even violence or murder.

Envy is defined as “a feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.” It generally works something like this: You believe somebody has what you should have . . . The attitude is: “They shouldn’t have that . . . I should!” This is the term used in Matthew 27:18  to signify that Pilate knew that Jesus had been delivered to him because of envy.

The common people listened to Jesus; they paid attention to Him, followed Him and celebrated His entrance into Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders saw that, didn’t like it  – – thought they ought to have that attention. Envy! It destroys.

All Evil Speaking (NIV, Slander of every kind.)

Let me observe that if there is a progression in 1 Pet. 2:1 it tells us, these attitudes eventually find their way to the tongue! If I let my heart become the home for malice; if I use guile to trap my victims; if I am hypocritical and envious -eventually these diseases will kill me in my mouth through what I say!

Bro. Clinton Hamilton wrote a useful commentary on 1 Peter, in which he said concerning evil speaking:

 “What is under view is every act whereby one might slander or libel another, the purpose of which is to do the person detriment or hurt. The tongue is a very willing instrument to express the ill will of the heart,” (p.#62, Truth Commentaries, 1 Peter).

It is helpful to think of the tongue as an instrument which expresses the content of the heart. It is not just helpful. It is the truth, spoken directly by the Lord Himself. Who said, in Matt. 12:34,  “…out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth  speaks.” If I have any trouble with my tongue, the source of that trouble is MY HEART. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

I speak insults … accusations without evidence … snide little remarks about people … I have heart trouble! If I am willing to lie … curse … use profanity … express lewd or immoral things … that kind of talk comes from an evil heart. If I revile … If I participate in gossip or slander – all evil speaking comes from the heart.

And growth cannot be enjoyed, while involved in any evil speaking.

1So clean house! Make a clean sweep of malice and pretense, envy and hurtful talk. 3You’ve had a taste of God. 2Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God’s pure kindness. Then you’ll grow up mature and whole in God.

The Message

Heb. 9:1-10

God Has Spoken By His Son, #19

The Past Pictured The Present

Hebrews 9:1-10

Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness. For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence.[b] It is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain was a second section[c] called the Most Holy Place,  having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.  Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail.

These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,  but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people.  By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still standing (which is symbolic for the present age). According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper,  but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation.

When you first read this section in Hebrews 9, your first thought is – This is about how the Jewish people worshipped under the Old Covenant system.

That’s right. But why is this brought up here? Not to restore or resume that system. Rather, to point out – that system of worship under Moses in the Old Testament – not only functioned for the Jewish people in the wilderness. It pre-figured, it foreshadowed what God had planned for the future. The writer is not calling upon his brethren to return to this. He is calling upon his brethren to consider how that system was only a picture of the fullness of blessings now available through Christ.

Now, it is worthy of note – there was, in that tabernacle system – a distance from God. The people could not directly approach God. Their worship was through the mediation of priests. And, only the High Priest could go into the Most Holy Place, and only one on one day a year.

In contrast, when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, He entered into the presence of God and is there for His people now. We have access to God through Jesus Christ. In obeying the gospel and daily discipleship, we have access to God through Jesus Christ. The old system only pictured the fullness of access we now have.

The Gospel, Rom. 1:1-6

The Gospel: Fundamental Facts Introduced

Romans 1:1-6

Warren E. Berkley

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead. Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ; To all who are in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” – Rom. 1:1-7, NKJ.

Romans is an explanation of the gospel plan of salvation. It is not like a tract to teach non-Christians, though there is much for non-Christians to learn here. Romans is more like a treatise to help Christians understand better how and why they are saved. The great theme of the letter is, the gospel of Christ is the power of God to save. The book of Romans explains this and thus supplies motivation to not lag in diligence, but continue fervently serving the Lord (Rom. 12:11).

The opening paragraph introduces the fundamental facts which are further explained later in the book, concerning the gospel of God. Paul was a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and he was called to be an apostle. His life’s work is described: “separated to the gospel of God.” This message – the gospel – was “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.”

The gospel is “of God,” meaning, God is the originator of this message. Paul (as a bondservant) was not free to create his own gospel, even in collaboration with other apostles. Peter said, “…we have not followed cunningly devised fables,” (2 Pet. 1:6). The gospel which was preached by the apostles was “not according to man,” (Gal. 1:11,12). The gospel came from the perfect mind of God. It is His plan to save those lost in sin.

The gospel is God’s, and this is evident in the assertion that He promised it before through His prophets. From the very beginning, right after man sinned, and all through the generations of Israelite history, there are centuries of prophecy and promise. God did this “through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures.” The gospel is for us, but it is “of God.” And He signaled what He would do long before it all came together.
The gospel concerns His Son. When the prophets wrote about the coming kingdom, they wrote about the King, and Jesus of Nazareth is that King. The text says, He “was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” This is about His birth, and this has to do with His genealogy; He arose from the lineage or family of David. The prophets said the Messiah would arise out of the family of Jesse, David’s father. The record shows (in Matthew and Luke), that Jesus was “born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” This is about His birth; a birth with a destiny no other birth could claim.
The next statement is about HIS RESURRECTION: He was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” Note two important phrases here:

ACCORDING TO THE FLESH: The birth of Jesus to Mary showed or declared Him to be the Messiah, the son or descendant of David, as the prophets had written. {The human Jesus came through the seed of David.}

ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT: That is, His spiritual nature; His deity — His resurrection declared Him to be the Son of God.

Therefore, the way His body came into the world showed Him to be the Seed of David. The way His spirit was reunited with His body in His resurrection showed or declared Him to be the Son of God.
The gospel Paul preached came from God, and concerns the Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, “who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.”
This is how the Roman letter begins, with these profound thoughts, or fundamental facts about the gospel Paul preached. These celebrated truths are explained and developed fully in the rest of the epistle. If you want to know more about these introductory affirmations, just keep reading.
But what is the object of this message from God, promised through the prophets that concerns the Son? Obedience to the faith! Through Jesus Christ, Paul and the other apostles had received the favor (grace) of being send, “unto” or “for” obedience to the faith among all nations for His name.

Here is this noteworthy phrase: “obedience to the faith,” or (NAS) “obedience of faith.” In some passages, the gospel message is considered as a body of teaching, or a system of teaching and is called “the faith.” Notice:

Acts 6:7

“And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.”
Jude 3

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. “

Hence, sometimes the gospel message or plan from God is called “the faith.” Everything in these opening verses – Paul’s service as an apostle, the promises of the gospel by the prophets, the fact that gospel originated in the mind of God, the birth and resurrection of Christ – everything here points in this direction: Obedience to the faith. Jesus is the author of eternal salvation, unto all them that obey Him (Heb. 5:9).

Read and study the book of Romans.

Here’s how it begins:
1. A Servant.
2. Of Jesus Christ.
3. Called.
4. To be an apostle.
5. Separated to the GOSPEL.

1. Of God.
2. Promised.
3. By His Prophets.
4. In the Scriptures.
5. Concerning His SON.

1. Jesus Christ.
2. Our Lord.
3. Born of the seed of David.
4. Declared to be the Son of God.
5. Raised from the dead.


“…for obedience to the faith…”

Have you obeyed?

Originally published in Expository Files 2.2; February, 1995

Joseph’s Defense, Gen. 39

Joseph’s Defense

Gen. 39

Warren E. Berkley


“…Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Lie with me.”

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge.

He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to lie beside her or to be with her.

But one day, when he went into the house to do his work and none of the men of the house was there in the house,

she caught him by his garment, saying, “Lie with me.” But he left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house.

And as soon as she saw that he had left his garment in her hand and had fled out of the house…,” (Gen. 39:6b-13).

Joseph was a man with high genealogical privilege: the eleventh son of Jacob and great-grandson of Abraham. He was in that great line of patriarchs through whom God worked to build the Jewish nation. “By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones,” (Heb. 11:22).

While all of that is good, the pathway of life for Joseph brought him into a variety of tests and temptations. He is born into a big family with lots of brothers, and nobody fights like brothers. Family closeness, which is attended with such rich warmth and blessing, can also be a place where there is friction, jealousy and strife. (Genesis tells of several great brotherly rivalries: Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his brothers.) Sold into slavery, Joseph experiences all kinds of adversity, but the inspired writer tells us several times: God was with him.

In the account given in Genesis 39, Joseph is hit with temptation with powerful directness accompanied by immediate opportunity. The devil wants us to think, when such temptation comes, that we can go ahead, indulge the pleasure and nobody will know. He wants us to reason, I will do it only this one time . . . no permanent change to my character. And the devil wants us to think: If I don’t do this, I’m going to upset somebody, to my own peril. The situation is unbearable. There is no way of escape. I must sin!

But the case of Joseph bears witness that there is no compelling reason to sin, nor any excuse after we do it.

Joseph essentially gave one primary reason for not seizing this moment of lust: How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God? Yes, Joseph was smart, respectful of his boss, trustworthy, diplomatic and socially prudent. But it was his respect for God that kept him from this sin. His sense of loyalty and fear of God was greater than – the short-lived pleasure offered by this seductive woman. {Kent R. Hughes, in his book, Genesis: Beginning & Blessing, describes (and condemns) the modern ill-conceived rationale: Sexual promiscuity was a daily part of all slaveholding households. Besides, by giving in to Mrs. Potiphar’s wishes, he could enhance his career. This is a time-honored political strategy. What is so wrong with a little “strategic adultery” if it furthers the cause? And face it, old Potiphar was gone all the time and was not meeting his wife’s needs. She was entitled to a little caring affection. This would actually be the loving thing to do. In today’s terms, the situation demanded this ethic. Even more, who could blame him? It was in his blood. Just look at his brothers Reuben and Judah! And again, not a soul would ever know. Clever from a carnal standpoint, but just wrong.}

That’s the frame of mind each of us must develop. And we develop this defensive frame of mind by opening ourselves to the discipline of the Word of God. Specifically, observe these three elements of Joseph’s defense against sexual immorality.

(1) His refusal was quick. There was no, “let’s talk about this first,” or “not now, maybe later.” There was an immediate dismissal of the wicked proposal. Joseph illustrates the wisdom of Proverbs 1:10. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” There is no good reason to hesitate, postpone or consider it. The first response ought to be, “no, I cannot do this. I will not do this!” Adulterous affairs seldom ever begin in bed. Friendships, flirting, emotional closeness and private meetings lead to the bed of adultery (and sin is often committed before the physical act, see Matt. 5:28). Let’s learn from Joseph to offer a quick refusal, no matter how easy it would be or how physically and emotionally attractive the offer and tempter is.

(2) He told the woman that his presence with her did not mean he could have her! Opportunity never justifies any sin. The fact that two people happen to be present together should never be considered as an argument that they can or should become intimate. In point of fact, this whole scene argues that male and female should guard against privacy, considering it to be a temptation in itself (aside from generating suspicion in the minds of others). Joseph wanted her to understand, “my presence in my master’s house does not mean that I can have you!” Men and women who are not married should observe discretion about privacy. {For as long as I can remember, older preachers have advised younger men – do not visit women who are alone! Take someone with you, preferably your wife. Some who have ignored that advise have fallen.}

(3) Flee! State your refusal, make it clear and then GET OUT OF THERE! “Flee fornication,” in 1 Cor. 6:18 can often have a literal application. Don’t stay around and let the thought processes linger (Jas. 1:14,15). I’ve heard people in affairs say things like, “we are trying to end the relationship,” or, “we are in the process of breaking up.” The process needs to be, “Flee!” If it is wrong before God, that is sufficient reason to end it immediately.

Finally, would you consider that you must make up your mind not to sin before the moment of temptation comes. I do not believe Joseph had to quickly think through the various dimensions, pleasures and problems of this. His response was an impulse – the right impulse, based on his previous development of devotion to God. All his commitments and priorities toward God long before this moment – became the substance of his response, “No. I will not sin against God.”

“In short, Joseph refused to sin against a) the trust given him, b) the woman’s husband, and c) God himself. Joseph’s integrity was of one fabric. And because he was faithful in all relationships, he could resist being unfaithful in this instance. This story is not just about sexual fidelity — Joseph’s life was a web of moral accountability. He saw his moral life as a unified, integrated whole. His overall faithfulness had helped him reject this massive temptation. We must understand that “little sins” pave the way to “big sins” — and that Joseph was on no such path. It was the power of this quality of his life as a whole that enabled him to resist the woman’s advances. Of course, the greatest deterrent to falling to the sexual siege was Joseph’s awareness that God was with him — not because of the narrator’s voice-over but because this is what God had repeatedly promised Joseph’s forefathers and had been his personal awareness all of his life. The grand deterrent to Joseph’s sinning was the awareness that God sees all and that a sin that no one knows about, committed behind locked doors in a dark room, is actually done in the presence of a holy God. Joseph believed this. And I am convinced that the personal realization and conviction of this truth is the strongest deterrent to sin that there is. King David invoked it after the horror of his own sin ravaged his soul: “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:3, 4a).” – Kent R. Hughes (Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, p.#463).

A Word Fitly Spoken

A “word fitly spoken”

Prov. 25:11

Sometimes we know exactly what needs to be said – we have the facts right – but we do not give enough thought to HOW these things are to be said. In regard to some issue or controversy, or when it is necessary to speak out against some sin or error, we know exactly what should be said, but we fail in HOW we say it. We preach the truth, but without love. We say what needs to be said, but with such an overbearing arrogance or anger, our listeners cannot hear the message; it is covered up by the volume of negative “attitude.”

But the bible tells us that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” This is a beautiful image or picture – apples of gold, surrounded by or set in silver. There is a similar statement in Prov. 16:24, “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Obviously we need to give attention to HOW we speak, as well as WHAT we speak. And we need to understand what good we can do when our words are accompanied by a caring and pleasant attitude. Prov. 15:28 says that “the heart of the righteous studies HOW TO ANSWER, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.”

We are obligated to speak the truth in love, and let our speech be always with grace, “seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one,” (Eph. 4:15, Col. 4:6).

A “word fitly spoken” would be the right thing, said at the right time, in the right place, to the right person, in the right way and for the right purpose. Jesus illustrated this perfectly.

1 Jno. 5:16-21

John’s First Epistle

1 Jno. 5:16-21


If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them.  We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.  We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Dear children, keep yourselves from idols. – 1 Jno. 5:16-21

This section begins with a call to pray for those who are penitent, that God will give them life. Those are worthy of our prayers who are not determined to sin themselves to death.

Those born of God (who have entered the family of God and are faithful) are people who are determined not to sin and who avoid the approaches of the evil one. The Son of God has given us understanding in these matters, having to do with our determination to avoid sin.

This avoidance means we keep ourselves from idols. The idols are anyone or anything that keeps us from full commitment to God.

Corinth – no code of silence

Corinth – No Place For A Code of Silence

(Acts 18:9-11)

Warren E. Berkley

Corinth would have been, based on human perception, a good place to adopt a code of silence. There was the powerful presence of Judaism, and they sometimes had the cooperation of Greeks in advancing their cause. Why not just stop by Corinth and quietly preach the gospel to a few, and let them carry on the work?

Paul came to Corinth from Athens. He connected with Aquila and Priscilla before Silas and Timothy arrived. They testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ, and “many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and be baptized,” (Acts 18:8). Now there was a local church in Corinth. Why not go ahead and put out to sea for Syria?

These thoughts could have occurred to Paul. If so, his thoughts were quickly adjusted when at night God spoke to him: “Do not be afraid any longer, but go on speaking and do not be silent; for I am with you, and no man will attack you in order to harm you, for I have many people in this city.” Paul stayed for “a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them,” (Acts 18:9-11).

“I am with you” is what Paul needed to hear and that divine promise was completely sufficient to motivate his further activity in Corinth. No code of silence could be considered by a man of faith, who was assured of God’s presence and protection. He trusted in God and continued to preach the Word without fear.

Though not conveyed through an evening vision, we have the promise of God’s approval, presence and protection to keep us from any code of silence.

“Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me’?” (Heb. 13:5,6).

“If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom. 8:31).

We are weak, dependent creatures. God has answered that need in Christ. In Him, there is a boldness we can assume in repeating the work Paul did in Corinth, “teaching the Word of God.” Any humanly perceived code of silence is removed by our faith in the presence and providence of God. Trust in the Lord. Preach The Word. Do not fear.

Baptism for the dead?

Baptism For The Dead

(1 Cor. 15:29)

Warren E. Berkley

“Otherwise, what will they do who are baptized for the dead, if the dead do not rise at all? Why then are they baptized for the dead?” 1 Cor. 15:29

Whatever you may discover or whatever remains baffling about this verse, you can be absolutely certain that it doesn’t mean a dead person can be saved from sin by a survivor on earth being baptized! If you never reach a completely satisfying explanation of the verse, you can be certain it doesn’t teach proxy baptism. Because:

The Bible teaches individual responsibility

Nothing we do (good or bad) is accounted to another (Ezek. 18). A false proverb circulated through Israel, that the son would bear the guilt of the father’s iniquity; or that the son would enjoy status with God by virtue of his father’s righteousness (cf. Matt. 3:9). In response to this God said, “the soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself,” (Ezek. 18:20, see also 24-28). Whatever 1 Cor. 15:29 means, it cannot contradict this.

Baptism is an individual’s response to the gospel

Acts 2:38 is the apostle Peter’s instruction to the individuals who were listening to him preach the gospel of Christ: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Observe that phrase that marks the individual role: “every one of you.” You can only be baptized for yourself! I cannot be baptized for you, nor can you obey for me.

At the point of death, one’s eternal destiny is sealed

Jesus told of a man who wanted relief from his suffering in torment after death. He was told, “…between us and you there is a great gulf fixed, so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those from there pass to you,” (Lk. 16:26). At death, that’s it! No changes. No evidence can be presented from the New Testament, that after you die somebody on earth can do something to change your state! A dead man cannot repent and be baptized, nor can anyone on earth obey for him.

So whatever 1 Cor. 15:29 means, we know what it cannot mean. It cannot mean that people on earth can be baptized for people in Hades. It cannot mean that people can live in sin and hold on to the hope that after they have passed away, some ceremony on earth will move them from torment to paradise (across the “great gulf”). If we never figure out what 1 Cor. 15:29 means, we know what it cannot mean because of the simple principles so easily discovered all through the Bible. Proxy baptism for the dead should be rejected, based on these things we know.

What does the verse mean?

The chapter and context has a theme: The Resurrection. Though the Corinthians had obeyed the gospel that affirmed the resurrection of Christ, some among them were now saying, “there is no resurrection of the dead!” (Verse 12). We can be clear about this. The problem being addressed is: the gospel they obeyed was verified and empowered by the resurrection of Christ, but now some were saying, “there is no resurrection of the dead.” Paul was responding to that.

Part of his response was to affirm, Christ arose from the dead and we (Christians) were baptized knowing we will be raised! The dead in Christ are an eternally victorious class, who “shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man,” who “put on immortality,” and fulfill the saying, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Those baptized prompted by this hope express “thanks to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I believe the point of verse 29 is: Why be baptized to join this eternally victorious class, if the dead “do not rise at all?” This may be regarded as a hypothetical argument, but is stated in terms to focus attention on the futility of baptized people denying the resurrection! “Why were you baptized?” Goodspeed’s translation may help: “Otherwise, what do people mean by having themselves baptized on behalf of the dead?” There is nothing here about proxy baptism; nothing about one person being baptized for another. “The dead” are an eternally victorious class. Why obey the gospel to join that class if the dead are not raised at all? Why obey the gospel, if there is no resurrection of the dead? Why subject yourself to “jeopardy every house” if the dead are not raised (v.30).

The resolution of this line of argument? “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” (1 Cor. 15:58).